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Differences Between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in Children

Topic Overview

Bipolar disorder in children and teens and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are similar. It is possible for a child to have both conditions. But certain symptoms help distinguish one from the other:

Comparing symptoms of bipolar disorder and ADHD

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Symptoms of ADHD

The child's mood and behaviour problems get distinctly worse or more intense for days at a time, but then return to the child's usual behaviour.

The child has difficult behaviours (such as impulsivity and hyperactivity) that are fairly consistent.

Mood swings and strange behaviours occur unpredictably. The child may be withdrawn or irritable one moment and extremely happy or giddy the next.

The child's moods can change quickly but are not extreme. These changes in mood are usually in response to something.

The child's response to external events is prolonged and out of proportion to the event.

The child's reaction to external events is not extreme and is resolved in a normal amount of time.

The child shows signs of hypersexuality (talking or thinking about sex, having sex, or using sexual language).

The child can show some signs of sexually inappropriate behaviour. But the behaviour is usually not severe or the child can be distracted from this behaviour.

Sleep disturbances and inability to sleep occur periodically. The child often has plenty of energy despite not getting much sleep.

Sleep disturbances and inability to sleep are long-term (chronic). The child is usually tired when he or she does not get enough sleep.

Credits

Current as of: January 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
David A. Axelson, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
David A. Brent, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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